a little visit to stowe | england.









I drove past Stowe House in Buckinghamshire not too long ago, and had to stop to have a look. We didn't visit the House, the school was in session and there were lots of children in school uniform (even though it was a Saturday, not sure I envy boarding school life). But we did visit the Grecian Valley designed by Capability Brown, and sat at the Temple of Concord and Victory to have a cup of coffee - served, in true National Trust style - in mismatched cups and saucers. I was tempted to buy one of the teaspoons but held back - I still regret it. Imagine being so rich you could just build a Temple instead of a garden shed?

behind closed doors | review.


When I was on holiday, I managed to finish off quite a few books that I'd been meaning to read for a few months. And then I ran out, and I had to do that terrible holiday thing of picking up a book someone else had left. There were loads of books in Dutch and Swedish and barely anything in English, so I really had to search. I finally found "Behind Closed Doors" by B A Paris. I probably should have seen the fact that it'd had been left behind as a sign. That, and the fact that the book is supposedly the next "Girl on the Train" - isn't every book these days?

"Behind Closed Doors" is the story of Jack and Grace, supposedly the perfect married couple. He has looks, she's gorgeous. Jack is a lawyer who champions "battered" wives and has never lost a case. She's the wife who can manage the perfect dinner party. But no one who knows them can get close to Grace, because Jack and Grace are never apart. Grace doesn't own a mobile, never gets to see her friends on her own and there are bars on her bedroom window - "the perfect marriage of the perfect lie?"

I could probably slate this book, the ending was pretty obvious, although there were a few twists and turns along the way. It was definitely a book which could keep you guessing, and I read it all in one sitting because it kept building towards a great climax. Instead, it fizzled out. It was also slightly unbelievable, in the way in which it was definitely possible. Everything could have happened, but never would have done.

The characters are well developed - you really feel for Grace and can quite easily develop a hatred towards Jack - until they speak. The dialogue that is there is formal and correct - it's not how normal people speak. It doesn't feel real. The story also has loads of plot holes. What does Jack get up to in Thailand? There are lots of factual errors, which made you feel like the book had been written quickly and published quickly, which I thought was odd considering it's supposed to be a debut. Do Harrods employ someone just to buy their fruit? Would this pay enough to buy a house in Wimbledon? Why Wimbledon? Why Thailand? There is barely any sense of place in the book. It could have been set anywhere. 

Overall, I could only recommend this book as the kind of book you read on holiday when you've run out of anything else to read. Easy reading, quick to get through but it won't stay with you. I'm pretty glad I didn't actually pay for it...


a little visit to zante | greece.













When I was a little bit younger, I did a bit of Greek island hopping - starting in Athens before heading off to Crete, Santorini and Mykonos. The plan was to also make a stop in Zante, but the sea wasn't good enough to get across and we went to Kefalonia instead. Zante had been one of the islands I'd wanted to go to the most, so I was pretty gutted and vowed I'd make it across there one day. So when it came to booking a cheap summer holiday, Zante kept popping up and it didn't seem like worst choice. So, a cheesy 10 day all inclusive cheap getaway was booked, and I was off. 

In hindsight, I possibly could have done with doing a little bit more research about Zante. I was looking for the perfect combination of history, good beaches, good food, good and heat. We got two of those, but we were at a loss for the most part. Firstly, there were great beaches. We stayed right near Kalamaki, and every day there was a spot we could get and not be disturbed by anyone, the water was clear and we could also grab pedalos to search for turtles. The heat couldn't be beaten either - there were days when it reached well over 40 degrees. 

But, there was pretty much nothing pretty in Zante, anything worth looking at. There were no small villages to have a wonder around - everything had been destroyed in an earthquake in 1953 and everything that had been rebuilt since seemed to have only been half finished. There was no where to get proper Greek food, no where that you thought the locals might have gone for their night's out. Every place was just catered towards tourists, nothing felt very real. Also, I hadn't realised that you couldn't flush the loo paper...

Despite that, I had a brilliant holiday. I got a tan for one of the first times in my life, remembered what it was like to actually feel the sun on my face and spent most of my days sleeping, reading, drinking cocktails and not thinking about work. I finished off some books which I'd been meaning to read for absolutely ages. It's just a shame I could have been anywhere to do that.

a little visit to roupell street | london.









If I ever have an excuse to walk down Roupell Street near Waterloo station, I generally take it. It's a 1820s Georgian street, which has managed to survive developments, bombings and the expansion of the railways - walking down it is like walking back in time, or walking down a film set (which it usually is - you'll probably recognise it from Legend, The Boat That Rocked, Call the Midwife and oddly enough, the opening credits for Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway). I think places like this sum London up; pockets of history hidden away between big glass modern buildings, workers cottages built on marsh land which are now worth over £1m. Of course, in London there are places which are just as old, if not older which have survived - massive parts of Notting Hill and Holland Park for example, but they were built for the rich, whereas Roupell Street was built for people who needed a place to live - I often wonder what the people who lived there when they were new would think of what it's like now, and if they'd laugh? Either way, a roast at The Kings Arms is usually worth a shout (despite slightly odd gravy choices) and Konditor & Cook isn't a bad choice for a cake either. 

Let me know if you know any other little gems like this hidden away in London!

supper club | the escapologist.

 



I think you only have to take a glance at my Instagram to see how much I love going for cocktails - I wish I could find a better way of saying that because I'm convinced that I come across as a bit of an arse - but it's true, I do. One of the better things about living in London is that when it comes to cocktail choice, there's a hell of a lot of it. There seems to be a new cocktail bar opening weekly, or even standard cocktail bar choices like Dirty Martini's that have flooded high streets like pubs would do in other towns. 

So yeah, I'm pretty happy to head off somewhere on a whim and grab a cocktail. Last Sunday's choice was the Escapologist, on Earlham Street in the Seven Dials area of Covent Garden. The Escapologist is part of the Adventure Bar group of bars, and promises riotous "memorable times with great drinks in an outrageous space", set in the headquarters of a "secret society that ran Victorian London, styled as part ‘modern day Victorian men’s club’ and ‘part Masonic lodge’". Right then. 

I chose three cocktails - but one of the bigger disappointments about this venue is that the menu isn't all that far off being the same menu for the three Adventure Bars which are dotted around London. I know this isn't all that surprising as they are part of the same group, but why bother having a different theme if you're not going to try with the menu, why wouldn't you just save yourself the effort and make it an Adventure Bar? I don't think it would have been that difficult to come up with a few different ones.

Having said that, the cocktails are good and there's no getting away from that, and they do try hard with the ones they have - from the extra little bits to some of the cocktails which come in skull glasses or on fire. They're decorated and it's clear that they've just gone to that extra little mile. One of big pet hates of cocktail bars is there not being any alcohol in them - if I'm spending £10+ on a drink, I want it to have something alcoholic in it, and not to feel ripped off, and that's not something you could ever accuse The Escapologist of. 

Would I be back? Possibly, if I was in the area, but I'm not sure I'd make a big effort to go back. If I had to pick, I'd stick with an Adventure Bar - the service is better and there's more choice. Let me know if you have anywhere to suggest for cocktails in central London, I'm always up for discovering!

Pictures from here.
The Escapologist - 35 Earlham Street, London WC2H 9LD.

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